The sole survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, virtually barren, uninhabited island. He prayed desperately for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted and disillusioned he eventually managed to build a little hut out of the last remaining shreds of driftwood he could gather from the beach to try protect himself from the elements. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived back at his lean-to hut to find his only source of protection in flames with smoke rolling up into the sky.
This was far too much for him to bear. The worst possible thing had now happened. He was a totally broken man. Everything appeared lost. He was stunned with grief and despair, even anger. At last, after a lonely, bitter, aching spell of tearing grief and disbelief he broke his anguished silence, “God, how could you do this to me!” he screamed into the night sky.
Early the next day, after a long, dark, cold and unforgiving night, he was awakened by the sight and sound of a ship that was slowly approaching the island. It had come to rescue him.
“How on earth did you know I was here?” asked the exhausted man of his rescuers after they had lifted him off his island of doom.
“We never even knew there was an island here … we saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
There was a time when we all spoke the same and we gathered together to speak the same things. We began to forge a shared understanding and because of this we believed that we were very powerful. We all migrated towards a unified plane of understanding where there was to be neither high nor low ground – where all were on the same level. It was a comfortable place for us where the mountains that were before us were not too high and the valleys not too low. Where the playing fields were level and life was comfortable and beneficial for us all.
It all seemed very good to us and we got more and more confident until eventually we decided to make a mark for ourselves. We believed we were powerful and secure yet we felt the need to make this even more sure for ourselves by constructing a functional monument in honour of our own efforts, our unity and our strength. We also wanted to begin to stretch out our hands and if possible, touch the very face of God. After all, we had come a long way, and we had things to say.
Up till then our worship of the gods was with what the land had blessed us with. Our temples were assembled with natural stones as were our homes and fields. Uncut stones which we had easily gathered up and assembled for protection and covering. But now we were well advanced in wisdom through our shared understanding and we had a few excellent ideas of our own. So we built a structure with the dust and water and other natural elements instead and baked it carefully and thoroughly. We rejected what we found in our hands as a natural blessing from the gods and decided to do it for ourselves instead. It had all sufficed well enough up till then, but now we had some serious contributions to make. We even decided to make a structure for ourselves that would reach up to the heavens. After all, why should we have to call out to the gods for them to come down to visit us when we could go up and stand before them ourselves, talking face to face as equals?
But the gods were apparently not very happy as they gazed down on our activities and heard our plans and intentions. So before they got very quiet and hid themselves in the clouds they did something that seemed very strange and which seemed to begin to confuse us all a great deal and we all tended to drift off in different directions and like the continents divided, so did we. And then, after some time and when the dust of our migrating feet had eventually settled we noticed that the structures we had been building and the ideas we had were now forgotten and lying silent, still half-built and partly in ruin.
It has taken some time, but have no fear, for we are well on the way to completing what we first had begun. And sooner than you know it, we will rise up in our new found unity and power and speak once again with those once lofty beings who dared to challenge our greatness long, long ago. And if they won’t listen this time, why, we might even scorch the sun and the stars and even the very ground they first gave us as an offering, … to teach them a final lesson.